After Hours part 2 of 2
There aren’t any cups in the vicinity. MJ Flair, Adrian Evans, and Shannon Stevens were prepared for their lawbreaking camping trip with bottled water, bottles of cold brew coffee, and protein bars.
And a bottle of good cognac, just in case. Unfortunately, they’re passing the bottle around like it’s a forty of Olde English wrapped in a brown paper bag.
Seventeen year old Shannon gave up after one sip. He’s a good kid who definitely feels out of his depth right now with his cousin and her manager; despite their parents’ comparable lifestyles he has never been one to go ‘on the road.’ He has joined in with Adrien, however, on the irrelevant small talk as they drink, and as MJ comes down from the emotionally charged promo she cut just a few minutes ago.
Adrian Evans: So do we address the elephant in the prison yard then, Ms. Flair?
MJ raises an eyebrow as she takes another sip.
MJF: Bobo don’t work here anymore, man.
They share a laugh, but Adrian quickly stops. He takes the bottle from MJ’s outstretched hand, has another sip, and corks it.
Adrian Evans: Very good, Ms. Flair. But I’m referring to the fact that you’re sitting here with me, who makes sense… and your underage cousin. Who doesn’t.
Shannon Stevens: Thanks man.
Adrian nods in his direction.
Adrian Evans: You had a reaction to the idea of being ignored, disregarded, and dismissed. Your boyfriend isn’t here; the minor is. Something you wish to talk about?
Immediately, MJ waves him off.
MJF: Naaah man, we’re good.
Shannon Stevens: I have a name, you know.
Pause. Both MJ and Adrian look at him and bust out laughing.
MJF: Dude. Naaah Adrian, me and the boy are good.
Adrian Evans: Well? You’ve got the fight of your life tomorrow, can you really afford to go into it with something weighing on your mind?
MJ sits in silence for a moment, then reaches for the bottle. Adrian arches an eyebrow and cocks his head a bit. MJ raises hers and re-reaches. This unspoken conversation – slash – conversation unfolds in front of Shannon’s face, and he’s painfully aware that he’s missing at least half the nuance.
Finally, Adrian hands the bottle over.
Adrian Evans: One for the road. You need to be physically ready as well.
She nods, and takes one final drink before recapping the bottle and handing it back.
MJF: So. I went to get my tetanus shot because of all’a this—
And she gestures to the yard, to the masses of metal all over the place.
MJF: -and doc says ‘So hey, there’s a lotta holes in your family history, can you help a brother out?’ and I says sure, but I don’t know any’a the stuff, so I went home with it and asked my parents.
MJ draws her legs up to her chest and hugs her knees.
MJF: My dad was cool. Shit, both his parents died when he was younger than me, but he called your mom —
–and she looks at Shannon—
MJF: –who’s got all the records. My mom, though…
She leans her chin on her knees.
Adrian Evans: Your mom… what?
MJF: You know.
Adrian Evans: I really don’t.
MJF: Really? Wow.
Adrian Evans: I work for Ms. McGinnis, I don’t have anything to do with your mother’s business.
They look at Shannon.
Shannon Stevens: Don’t look at me, guys. I don’t know anything.
MJF: So, my mom didn’t have any’a her parents’ histories. She didn’t know their general health, what they’ve got a history of, what they’ve got genetic indicators for, all’a that shit. And she had no records, and she told me she had no way ta get ‘em.
Shannon Stevens: I mean, she’s from a tiny little town somewhere in the midwest, right? Like, a one doctor town or whatever. That’s kinda what Mom always said. Don’t they have old records you could try to request?
Adrian nods his agreement, but MJ shakes her head.
MJF: You’re right, guys. But that only works if you’re asking for records of deceased people.
Five days ago…
MJF: The corner’s cool, man.
The uber slows down and stops at the corner of two small streets; the driver nodding his silent assent to the two before they exit. For the entire drive from Omaha to Trielee, Nebraska, he hadn’t said a word.
That was fine by MJ; she and her boyfriend were engaged in a serious conversation, with every word spoken driving a jolt of anxiety through MJ’s entire body.
“No, man,” said MJ, “Mommy said she hasn’t seen them in almost twenty years. No contact, no conversation, no nothing.”
“Did you ever meet them?” asked Kevin.
“Once?” replied MJ, “but I was like three months old or some shit, so it’s not like I remember it. My mom told me she left home when she was my age to try and make it with uncle Teej in LA; she met the guys, they formed the band, she met my dad, I was a surprise, blah blah blah, they played a gig here and she tried to make peace.”
“And it’s been almost twenty years,” said Kevin, “I guess she got a cold war instead.”
“Boy, you’re not fuckin’ kidding, babe,” replied MJ, looking out the window at the frozen wasteland of rural Nebraska.
Every bit of her was expecting the cringe of the family’s dirty laundry to be a bridge too far for this guy, but all he’s been doing is listening and offering gently advice and/or perspective.
MJF: Fucking titsicles it’s cold out.
The driver gives her an unimpressed look, all the while Kevin laughs to himself.
Doors closed. Sky grey. The Weather Channel says that the temperature was going to climb as high as thirty seven degrees today.
The Weather Channel lies.
MJF: 1427, it’s up on the left.
She begins to walk, but Kevin grabs her arm.
Kevin: One second, babe.
She turns back, still shivering. Even bundled up in a hooded sweatshirt, thick boots, a knit hat, earmuffs, and a scarf, her pale cheeks are visible enough to show their reddening against the wind.
Kevin: You got into a shouting match with your mom, showed up at my door with a bag packed, and said ‘we’re going to Omaha, I’ve already bought the plane tickets.’
She looks to the right, deftly avoiding his eyes.
Kevin: Is this really about medical records, babe? Really?
MJF: Fuck you, I hate when you do this, babe.
She pulls away and begins to walk back down the street. He stays with her, right behind her, and without a word or a look, MJ reaches back and grabs his hand.
After less than a minute of walking, they stand on the sidewalk in front of the house. The shades are drawn, the porch light is on, and the mailbox reads ‘DAVISON’ on the side.
The house has a feel about it, as dead as the front lawn in the cold November air.
(No, it’s not raining.)
MJ squeezes her boyfriend’s hand.
MJF: Please don’t let go.
She knocks on the door, still moving from one foot to the other. It doesn’t look like anyone is home, but there are some footsteps behind the door. MJ’s breath catches in her throat as the door unlocks and opens.
For a moment, she’s lost for words. The man in front of her is a bit taller than her, and despite his advanced age, thinned hair, and sunken eyes, he looks like he was once a large and imposing figure. He looks like he’s been beaten by life, but there seems to be a bit of fire still behind those piercing blue eyes.
Just like her mom’s.
MJF: Uhm… hi. Mr. Henry Davison?
“Yes. May I help you?”
MJF: My name is MJ–Mariella. Mariella Flurstein. I’m…
His look transitions from neutral, to suspicious, to angry, to afraid, to confused. MJ averts her eyes again so as to push through her prepared speech.
MJF: I’m your granddaughter. I know that you and my mom had—
Henry Davison: I have no daughter.”
The door slams in her face.
MJ doesn’t move, she’s clearly in shock.
Kevin: Listen, babe. Let’s-
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
The door pulls open again, with nothing in Henry Davison’s face except for anger.
Henry Davison: I told you to go away.
He slams the door again, but this time MJ is ready and wedges her boot between the door and the frame.
MJF: I don’t know what happened between you and my mom, but isn’t family most important? Don’t family mean anything ta you?
“Henry? Who is it?”
MJ tries to look into the house to follow the voice. It belongs to a woman of a certain age, obviously, but her grandfather blocks her.
Henry Davison: Call the police, Helen.
Henry Davison (shouting): Call the police, I said!
He doesn’t lean back to talk into the house, he yells right in MJ’s face and it backs her up a bit, though her foot is still jamming the door open.
MJF: I don’t understand.
Henry Davison: Oh no? Let me explain it. Your evil mother walked out of this house after destroying this family and tried to use you to weasel her way back in. And now you’re doing the same. I have no daughter, and I have no granddaughter. GET OUT!
He opens the door a bit and shoves MJ backwards, before slamming it shut once again. Kevin catches her before she can fall backwards over the steps and onto the pavement of the front walk, and he holds her tightly, waiting for her to get her feet underneath her.
It takes a minute, as she seems to be a bit in shock.
Kevin: Breathe, babe. Deep breath.
Finally, she has her footing, and she turns around, walking down the three steps leading up the stoop. She stops, and reaches out with both hands – one on the bannister and the other grabbing Kevin’s hand, and she gingerly sits down. He puts an arm around her and she sinks into his shoulder, and she starts to shake.
It takes him a minute to realize that – for the first time since he met her – she’s openly sobbing.
He kisses the top of her head and tightens his grip around her shoulders.
MJF: It’s not fair, man. It’s not fucking fair.
Kevin: I know, babe.
MJF: It’s like it doesn’t matter to them. He doesn’t even want to know her, or know me, or know my dad. None of us ever did anything to them, but we’re not welcome.
Kevin: Shhhh… it’s okay.
She closes her eyes and digs her face into the crook of his arm, and they sit for a few minutes as he breathing returns to normal and her hiccup – sobs slowly subside.
Eventually, she feels his arm tense. MJ looks up at him, her eyes as red as her cheeks.
Kevin: We should go.
She follows his gaze to the street, where a police cruiser has pulled up. One officer steps out while another remains in the car, behind the wheel.
MJF: I can’t believe…
Officer: Hi. Can I have some ID, please?
MJF: These fu—
Kevin: What seems to be the problem?
He squeezes her hand as the two stand up and walk, slowly and non threateningly away from the house.
Officer: We received a call about a nuisance complaint, some strangers that fit your descriptions trespassing on private property.
Kevin: All just a misunderstanding, sir. We are leaving as soon as we can call a cab or an uber, and we don’t plan to come back.
The police officer nods, but does not back off or move out of their way. He does, however, allow the two to walk to the other corner unimpeded to make the call.
And he doesn’t get back in the car until theirs pulls up.
Adrian Evans: Well, that explains why your connecting flight was from Omaha, at least.
MJ Flair still sits with her knees to her chest, and she’s stopped her story a few times to dab at her eyes but she mainly maintained her composure in the retelling.
MJF: Yeah. Boy is running the kitchen this week while his sous chef is on vacation, so he really needed to be in the city instead’a here. We’re good, though, don’t worry about that part.
Adrian Evans: I’m really not, Ms. Flair; he’s a fairly well together gentleman. My concern is always on you, and how this was clearly a catalyst for something else inside you.
She smiles, but there’s a sadness behind it.
MJF: Ya know, I never worried about it. I grew up on the road, loved it. Never thought a second thought about it until I started school and we bought the house. But it was always weird goin’ over my friends houses and being all ‘Wait, you mean you don’t have ten to twenty musicians milling about at all hours? What kinda freaky cult is this?’ Same shit, man – what’cha grow up with is what’s normal.
MJ points at Shannon, who perks up.
MJF: Staying with you guys was different. Both your parents had their hands in road life but they were also both pretty much stay-at-homes by the time you were walkin’. You were pretty much a typical kid, right? I dunno that I ever felt like I fit in with people my own age.
Shannon shrugs, but he also nods. MJ’s on a roll and he’s not going to interrupt her, but he nods his agreement – the most he ever spent on the road with either of his parents was a long weekend of shows.
MJF: So that was that, right. I don’t think I ever had a hope in hell’a being anything but a wrestler or a musician, and I don’t play nearly well enough ta be a successful one. But hangin’ out with you guys, especially when your mom’s brother and his kids visited? Dude.
MJ pounds her fist into her chest.
MJF: Ryan and LT and their families? Double dude. Meeting the boy’s parents and older brothers? Holy fuckballs, that got me thinking. And then the shit with the doc and asking about a family history, and I do a double take. Wait a minute, could I have this too? I’ve got living extended relatives, I could have this, too.
She gestures all around at their surroundings.
MJF: I’ve got this fucking monstrosity in like eight hours. I’d better hurry, right? Fucking Scotty and Mike talking about how you don’t get to be fully High Octane until you lose a body part and shit? Lemmee make this connection before anything bad happens, right?
MJF: But I don’t exist. They have no daughter, therefore they have no granddaughter.
They sit in silence for a few seconds.
Adrian Evans: MJ…
MJF: We should get some sleep.
It isn’t presented as a suggestion.
The sun is peeking over the top of the eastern wall of the prison yard. The sky is blue with no clouds in sight. Flip the scene, and MJ Flair sits against the western wall, oversized sunglasses on her face. Her hair is askew, like she slept outside.
“Just a few more hours.”
“This right here, man… it’s gonna be the fight of our lives.”
She pans the entire yard slowly, showing the full scene of future carnage. There is a small bit of movement off in the distance and she skips over that part.
“I think we’re here because we’re all already damaged here in this match. I mean, I can’t speak for anyone but me, but let’s look at it.”
“My partner, Jack Harmen. Twenty years or more in the sport.”
“Goddamn, it’s a mindfuck. Jack Harmen’s been doin’ this longer than I’ve been alive. He has seen some shit. But he’s completely unaffected by any of it. I told him what’s the deal, he seemed really interested in the prison yard match, but was surprised that it was for my LSD Title.”
“Think about how much baggage you’re carryin’ if the prospect’a winning a Championship is secondary ta the carnage ya can cause in a concrete jungle. Mindblowing.”
“Evan Ward wanted this. He wanted so fuckin’ bad for Ground Zero ta take control again like they looked like they were gonna at War Games, but Pornstache faded away. Rhys Townsend, so goddamn confident that he was going to take the hashtag LSD Life away from me ’because he can,’ he did fuck-all.”
“Maybe you can wipe the stink’a failure that Ground Zero left on ya off, Evan, cause you don’t deserve it. I hope ya do, but it won’t be today.”
“And of course, Max. Long may he maim, or whatever it is that Harold the Herald talks about. Maxie’s had nothing but failure this year, and it’s not likely ta’ change.”
“Does it count as a success t’be High Octane World Champion for just over a month, when ya lost it in your first defense at War Games, Max? Does it count when ya team won War Games in spite’a your best efforts?”
She smirks into the camera.
“That’s all window dressing, Maxxie. The full monty’s the fact that you had one job ta do this year, and that’s to ensure High Octane shuts down.”
“High Octane wrestling ain’t a place, Max. High Octane Wrestling is a concept. It doesn’t die, long as people believe in it.”
“Like Lee Best. Like Mike Best. Shit, even like fuckin’ Scottywood.”
“Like Mariella Jade Flair, your LSD Champion.”
“Is that cultural appropriation? Hashtag sorry not sorry.”
“The fact’a the matter is, I told Lee Best. I told every other member’a the Industry.”
“I told Mike Best. And I’d even tell Scottywood if there’s anything left of ‘em after Stevens is done: I’m in this for the long haul.”
“Until the end, whatever it might be.”
And she cocks her head to the side.
“Can you say that, Max? Even as you’re lookin’ ta bring the end crashin’ down, prematurely? Can ya really say you’ll do it’cherself if that’s what it takes?”
MJ raises an eyebrow and shrugs her shoulders.
“It was s’posed’ta be War Games. Now I guess it starts here? But of course, you needed a lil’ vacation first. Can’t end the world if you’re feelin’ all stressed out from work, right?”
And her expression turns deadly serious.
“They say people lose body parts at Rumble at the Rock. It’s certainly possible; you’re clearly forty percent artificial, and that’s not even countin’ the delusional self you’ve created.”
“Max, you said you’re probably gonna try and kill us today.”
“Spoiler alert: you won’t.”
“No, Max. Your war is over before it began. You may hurt me. You may beat me. You may even take the LSD Title from around my waist.”
“But that’s the worst you’ve got, man. That’s the furthest you can take this.”
Close up. MJ’s steel gray eyes fill the view.
“Because your goal is to destroy High Octane Wrestling.”
“Spoiler alert: you can’t.”
“And that means, no matter what else happens today, Max…”